Make a wish at these 8 unforgettable Japanese "Tanabata" festivals

Have a wish you'd like to come true? Try your luck at the Tanabata Festival, a traditional Japanese summertime celebration where wish-making is a part of the festivities. Here are 8 colorful Tanabata events across Japan to highlight a memorable summer!

Make a wish at these 8 unforgettable Japanese Tanabata festivals

What is Tanabata?

Tanabata is one of five festivals which customarily signal the changing of the seasons in Japan. In old times, it was held on the 7th day of the 7th month of the lunar year, but now the official celebration date varies region to region, with the first festivities typically happening from July 7.

Also known as the Star Festival, Tanabata has its origins in a Chinese festival and concerns the romantic legend between two literally star-crossed lovers, Princess Orihime the Weaver and Hikoboshi the Cowherd. The pair are represented by the stars Vega and Altair, separated by the Milky Way galaxy, and can only meet on this day once a year when a flock of sympathetic magpies form a bridge for them across the river of heaven.

In Japan, Tanabata is celebrated by writing wishes onto strips of paper and hanging them along with colorful decorations on leafy stalks of bamboo. Additionally, each region boasts its own unique Tanabata customs so festivities will vary from region to region. Experiencing each one of them could be a great adventure!

Tokyo: Asakusa ~ Ueno

Shitamachi Tanabata Festival

Shitamachi Tanabata Festival

A 1.2 km stretch of the famous Kappabashi Street is decorated like Milky Way, filled with large and small Tanabata decorations and all aglow with paper lanterns. Local stores and traditional craft shops line the street with stalls where festival-goers meander to and fro while observing parades and performances roll by. The Tanabata Festival is the biggest occasion of the year in this community.

Festival Venue
Tokyo > Asakusa to Ueno along Kappabashi Street)
Event Period
2016/7/6-11 (Wed-Mon)
Getting There
Approximately 8 minutes on foot from JR Ueno Station or JR Uguisudani Station
Approximately 5 minutes on foot from Iriya Station on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line
Approximately 5 minutes on foot from Tawaramachi Station or Inaricho Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line
Approximately 3 on foot from Asakusa Station on the Tsukuba Express
Approximately 10 on foot from Asakusa Station on the Toei Asakusa Line

Kanagawa Prefecture: Hiratsuka

Shonan Hiratsuka Tanabata Festival

Shonan Hiratsuka Tanabata Festival

The appeal of Hiratsuka's Tanabata festival, now celebrating its 66th year, lies in its extravagant Tanabata decorations. Visitors can enjoy large scale decorations standing over 10 meters tall, appearances by trending celebrities, and a wide variety of animal and character-themed Tanabata decorations. Festivalgoers will never find themselves bored thanks to the entertaining events and parades also held during this time.

Festival Venue
The entire city region, primarily focused on the North Exit shopping district of Hiratsuka Station
Event Period
2016/7/8-10 (Fri-Sun)
Getting There
• Train
Approximately 60 minutes from Tokyo Station on the JR Ueno-Tokyo Line to Hiratsuka Station, and from there an approximately 2 on foot
Approximately 65 minutes from Shinjuku Station on the JR Shonan Shinjuku Line to Hiratsuka Station, and from there an approximately 2 on foot
• Bus
Approximately 40 minutes from Odakyu Line Honatsugi Station on the Kanachu Bus
• Car
Approximately 10 minutes from the Chigasaki Kaigan Interchange on the Ken-O Expressway
Approximately 10 minutes from the Hiratsuka Interchange on the Odawara-Atsugi Road

Saitama Prefecture: Ogawamachi

Ogawamachi Tanabata Festival

Ogawamachi Tanabata Festival

The Ogawamachi Tanabata Festival has been going strong for 68 years as of 2016. A definiite highlight is the colorful Tanabata decorations made with Japanese washi paper produced by local craftsmen. A wide variety of events such as dancing are spread out over an exciting 2-day period, with the first day culminating in a lively fireworks show.

Festival Venue
Saitama Prefecture,the entire Ogawamachi town area
Event Period
2016/7/23-24 (Sat-Sun)
Getting There
The Ogawamachi Station area, Tobu Tojo Line/JR Hachiko Line

Aichi Prefecture: Ichinomiya

Ichinomiya Tanabata Festival

Ichinomiya Tanabata Festival

This year marks the 61st celebration of the Ichinomiya Tanabata Festival, which attracts approximately 1.3 million visitors every year. The textile industry at the heart of this locale is said to have flourished thanks to the divine protection of the "God of Textiles," which may have a connection with the weaving princess herself, Orihime. Thusly, for 4 days finishing on the last Sunday of July, the entire city also celebrates Tanabata as the "Textile Appreciation Festival."

Festival Venue
Aichi Prefecture: Honmachi, Ichinomiya
Event Period
2016/7/28-31 (Thu-Sun)
Getting There
• Train
* from Nagoya area
Approximately 9 minutes from Nagoya Station on the JR Tokaido Main Line New Rapid service, disembark at Owari-Ichinomiya Station
Approximately 14 minutes from Meitetsu Nagoya Station on the Meitetsu Nagoya Main Line Limited Express service, disembark at Meitetsu Ichinomiya Station
* from Gifu area
Approximately 8 minutes from Gifu Station on the JR Tokaido Main Line Rapid service, disembark at Owari-Ichinomiya Station
Approximately 9 minutes from Meitetsu Gifu Station on the Meitetsu Nagoya Main Line Limited Express service, disembark at Meitetsu Ichinomiya Station
• Car
Approximately 15 minutes northwest from the Ichinomiya Interchange on the Meishin Expressway
Approximately 10 minutes south from the Ichinomiya Kisogawa Interchange on the Tokai-Hokuriku Expressway
Approximately 10 minutes northeast from the Ichinomiya West Interchange on the Tokai-Hokuriku Expressway

Aichi Prefecture: Anjo

Anjo Tanabata Festival

Anjo Tanabata Festival

This year's Anjo Tanabata Festival, the 63rd, will be visited by over 1 million people over 3 days. The streets, covered in bamboo decorations built by local residents, are sure to dazzle. The theme for 2016's events is "circle," with the goal of encouraging open exchange between locals and tourists.

Festival Venue
The Anjo Station area, JR Tokaido Line
Event Period
2016/8/5-7 (Fri-Sun)
Getting There
• Airplane
Chubu Centrair International Airport → Kanayama Station, Meitetsu Nagoya Railroad → disembark at Anjo Station, JR Tokaido Main Line
Chubu Centrair International Airport → Mikawa-Anjo Station, ANA Bus → disembark at Anjo Station, JR Tokaido Main Line
Nagoya Airport → Nagoya Station, via bus, etc. → disembark at Anjo Station, JR Tokaido Main Line
• Train
Mikawa-Anjo Station, JR Tokaido Shinkansen → disembark at Anjo Station, JR Tokaido Main Line
Disembark at Shin Anjo Station, Meitetsu Nagoya Main Line, ride a bus, etc. for approximately 20 minutes
Disembark at Minami Anjo Station, Meitetsu Nishio Line
• Car
Approximately 30 minutes from the Okazaki Interchange on the Tomei Expressway
Approximately 40 minutes from the Toyota Interchange on the Tomei Expressway

Tokyo: Asagaya Minami, Suginami Ward

Asagaya Tanabata Festival

Asagaya Tanabata Festival

This festival is visited by vast numbers of people every year who crowd the many refreshment booths lining the shopping district. As such, it is known as the number one Tanabata festival in Tokyo. Not only are the Tanabata decorations sure to impress, the papier-mâché decorations handmade locals are also a must-see, featuring the buzzworthy trends of the year in addition to fantastically creative ideas.

Festival Venue
Taking place in 10 shopping districts, including the Asagaya Pearl Center, in Asagaya Minami, Suginami Ward, Tokyo
Event Period
2016/8/5-9 (Fri-Tue)
Getting There
• Train
Disembark at Asagaya Station, JR Chuo Line/JR Sobu Line
Disembark at Minami Asagaya Station, Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line
• Bus
From Hamadayama Station on the Keio Inokashira Line, transfer to the Sugimaru community bus until the final stop, Asagaya Station
From Shakuji-koen Station North Exit / Nakamurabashi Station / Shimo-Igusa Station, take the Kanto Bus heading towards Asagaya Station, disembark at the final stop, Asagaya Station

Saitama Prefecture: Sayama

Sayama Irumagawa Tanabata Fesitval

Sayama Irumagawa Tanabata Fesitval

Considered on the the Top 3 major Tanabata festivals in the eastern Japan region, this is Sayama city's biggest summer event. Local shops and residents offer colorful Tanabata decorations, and the Noryo Fireworks Show provide a memorable climax to the event. The massive fireworks bursting in the night sky combine with flashy Tanabata decorations to create a beautiful summer night's performance.

Festival Venue
Sayama-shi Station West Exit Open Square ~ Tanabata Dori shopping district
Event Period
2016/8/6-7 (Sat-Sun)
Getting There
A short walk/bus ride/taxi ride from Sayama-shi Station, Seibu Shinjuku Line

Miyagi Prefecture: Sendai

Sendai Tanabata Festival

Sendai Tanabata Festival

Counted among the Top 3 Tanabata festivals in all of Japan, this massive festival is visited by over 2 million people each year. During the festival, the entire city, beginning with the central areas of Sendai and the surrounding shopping districts, seems to be dressed from head to toe in beautiful colored paper and Tanabata bamboo decorations.

Festival Venue
Sendai central areas and surrounding shopping districts
Event Period
2016/8/6-8 (Sat-Mon)
Getting There
• Airplane (up to Sendai Airport)
Approximately 55 minutes~1 hour 15 minutes on ANA from Narita Airport
Approximately 1 hour 5 minutes~1 hour 25 minutes on JAL/ANA/ADO/SKY from Sapporo Airport
Approximately 1 hour 10 minutes~1 hour 25 minutes on JAL/ANA/IBX from Nagoya (Chubu) Airport
• Train (up to Sendai Station)
Approximately 1 hour 30 minutes from Tokyo Station on the Tohoku Shinkansen
Approximately 2 hours 30 minutes from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station on the Hokkaido Shinkansen
• Highway bus
Approximately 5 hours 41 minutes from the metropolitan area (Shinjuku, Hamamatsucho)
Approximately 12 hours 27 minutes from Osaka
Approximately 9 hours 40 minutes from Nagoya
• Car
Take the Sendai Miyagi Interchange on the Tohoku Expressway from the Kawaguchi Junction on the Shuto Expressway
Take the Sendai Miyagi Interchange on the Tohoku Expressway from the Morioka Interchange from Iwate / the Aomori Interchange from Aomori

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